2004 Subaru Forester XSView Vehicle Profile
Subaru Forester 2004-‘08: Tall wagon blazed trail for crossovers
Are Subarus reverse-engineered from UFOs?
Are Subarus reverse-engineered from UFOs?
Lift the hood on one and the alien technology — its horizontally opposed “boxer” engine — may make you a believer.
The otherworldly auto company, with a star map to its home planet emblazoned on every grille, determined early on that car-based crossovers were going to be the next big thing and made all of its North American models with standard all-wheel drive.
When Toyota dispatched its funky RAV4 over here in 1996, Subie got to work on its own tall wagon in the form of the Forester, based on its compact Impreza sedan, and launched it just two years later.
They say Foresters come from Ota, Japan, but their origins might very well point to Area 51.
For its second-generation Forester in 2003, Subie’s engineers imbued the wagon with a stiffer unibody, more interior room and additional standard features — while keeping the dimensions the same and reducing its curb weight by 40 kg, thanks to an aluminum hood, perforated rails and a hydroformed front subframe.
Inside, the cabin was paradoxically generous and tight at the same time. Headroom was expansive and the seats’ “h-point” was high enough to allow easy ingress and egress (seniors take note). At the same time, rear legroom was cramped, revealing the Impreza’s compact chassis.
On the other hand, owners lauded the excellent sightlines all around. It’s not often that drivers boast of having virtually no blind spots. The rather-upright windshield did attract more than its share of stones, though.
“My wife has had four new models (trades every two to three years), all of which have experienced stone chips that have migrated to cracks,” notes reader Maurice Lake.
Thanks to parent company Fuji Heavy Industries’ aeronautical history, Subaru adopted the horizontally opposed engine, meaning that its four cylinders lay flat, two to a side, to lower the car’s centre of gravity and quell the paint-mixer shakes.
The all-aluminum SOHC 2.5 L flat-four was carried over from the Impreza, putting out 165 hp and 166 lb.-ft. of torque. Thanks to the boxer’s longitudinal orientation, engineers could fit equal-length symmetrical driveshafts to minimize torque steer.
AWD with a viscous limited-slip centre differential was standard. Unlike many crossovers that drive their front wheels and dispatch torque to the rear only when slip is detected, Subarus drive all four wheels all the time. A five-speed manual transmission was standard, bundled with a Hill Holder clutch feature to prevent rollback. The optional automatic had just four forward gears.
A second engine arrived for 2004: the DOHC 2.5 L turbo four was good for 210 hp and 235 lb.-ft. of grunt, which silenced any bleating about somnolent acceleration in the Forester 2.5 XT. Both engines employed timing belts rather than durable chains.
The Forester lineup was refreshed for 2006 with some styling tweaks and more power: regular models gained 8 hp, while the turbocharged XT added 20 hp for 230 in total.
ON THE ROAD
Run-of-the-mill Foresters could sprint to highway speed in 9.6 seconds, which seemed a little leisurely, even among compact crossovers.
Aided by its short 4.44:1 axle ratio, the turbocharged XT could scorch its rubber on the way to 96 km/h in a blistering 5.3 seconds, almost as swiftly as a Porsche Cayenne Turbo.
Owners loved the car’s composed nature on various road surfaces and in adverse weather, although they disliked the prominent wind noise around the A-pillars and frameless windows at highway speeds.
In terms of fuel usage, the Forester performs well for an all-wheel-drive wagon, but relatively poorly for a four-cylinder car. Expect no better than 9.4 L/100 km around town.
WHAT OWNERS SAY
Motorists adore the sense of invincibility that comes with piloting a Subaru through bad weather, as well as the car’s well-appointed cabin, great visibility and everyday utility. Reliability has been very good, save for a few sore spots.
“Not one repair made in first seven years of ownership! Then the roof fell: Head gaskets replaced due to antifreeze seepage,” reader Steve Pukonen wrote of his 2003 Forester, which also suffered from a leaky fuel filler pipe.
Head gasket failures were a Scooby scourge in the early 2000s; by 2004 the automaker had devised a better gasket, although failures are not unheard of in later models.
Other headaches include: short-lived wheel bearings and catalytic converters, piston slap, oil consumption (especially in turbo engines), underperforming air conditioners and some cabin rattles.
We would like to know about your ownership experience with these models: Suzuki Swift+, Ford Explorer Sport Trac and BMW 7 Series. Email: email@example.com.
Subaru Forester 2004-’08
WHAT’S BEST: Tidy size, standard AWD, very good sightlines.
WHAT’S WORST: Tight back seat, wind noise, oil-swilling turbo.
TYPICAL GTA PRICES: 2004: $7,000, 2008: $13,000
Used Subaru Forester All Used Vehicles
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